Five Books about Queer and Chosen Families
By Michelle Osgood
Many of my favourite books growing up, and to this day, are those about chosen families. It’s maybe no wonder that I’m drawn to stories about characters who create their own families, who are bound together not by blood or legal ties but through a shared sense of understanding, experiences, and worldviews.
Though I'm sure we all wish for like-minded folks to share our lives with, queer people in particular often struggle to find those folks within their biological or legal families. Most of us grow up with straight parents and siblings, and so rarely have access to queer histories or cultures. As we grow up and embrace our queerness, it’s usually with friends or mentors in the queer community that we find a sense of belonging, of family.
So here are some of my favourite books that feature chosen families! Some are queer, some are not, but all are warm and loving and true.
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Harry, Ron, and Hermione make up the Golden Trio, and the heart of this series—though let’s not forget the Silver Trio of Luna, Ginny, and Neville, or the entire DA if I’m being honest. In the very first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we see Harry make the first choice about his newfound family when he befriends Ron Weasley over Draco Malfoy. Hermoine joins the boys soon after, and the trio remain nearly inseparable over the course of the seven books. While their relationships aren’t always harmonious, the three have each other’s back through Death Eaters and Cornish pixies alike.
Into the Blue by Pene Henson
Set against the sun-drenched surfer world of Hawaii, Into the Blue introduces us to Tai, Ollie, Jamie, Sunny, and Hannah. The gaggle of young adults, with Ollie’s younger brother Jamie, live in the Blue House and have very intentionally created their family. Ollie’s fear is that his growing attraction to Tai will disrupt the dynamic of the Blue House, and it is so refreshing to read a romance story that treats its platonic relationships with the same respect and care as its romantic ones!
Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jaqueline Carey
Beginning with Phèdre and her best friend Hyacinthe in Kushiel’s Dart, this sweeping series of politics and sex and fantasy is about characters who come together to save their homeland. Extremely sex- and kink-positive, the lines between friend and lover and family blur in a way that feels very familiar to anyone involved in queer communities. I first started reading these books as a teenager, and re-reading this series now I’m delighted to discover how queer it actually is.
The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith
Jenny and her six friends, Tom, Dee, Audrey, Michael, Summer, and Zach, are unwittingly sucked into a board game, where they have to win against the Shadow Man or Jenny will be trapped forever. The Shadow Man happens to be a very dreamy boy named Julian, who has the ability to make the game players face their worst nightmares. The gang of friends has to work together to help each other fight their greatest fears. When the shadow world spills over into the real world and none of the adults believe the danger, Jenny and her friends have only each other to rely on.
The In Death series by JD Robb
Nora Robert’s futuristic mystery series, beginning with Naked in Death, introduces us to Lieutenant Eve Dallas with the NYPD. After a horrific childhood and raised in the foster system, Eve begins the series with only one real friend, Mavis, a young woman she catches grifting, and her cop mentor, Feeney. Over the course of the series Eve meets Roarke, a handsome billionaire who might or might not be on the right side of the law; Delia Peabody, her trusty sidekick; Ian McNabb, a colourful e-geek; Nadine Furst, a TV news reporter; Summerset, Roarke’s majordomo and closest companion; and various other characters who Eve learns to let in. Like Eve, Roarke grew up bereft of family ties, and one of the most enjoyable parts of these books is watching the two of them expand and embrace their idea of what makes a family.
Given my love of these sorts of untraditional families, it’s unsurprising that a chosen family—or pack—is at the heart of the books I write. Werewolf fiction, delightfully, lends itself easily to this trope! In my newest book, Huntsmen, the wolves and humans we meet in The Better to Kiss You With, as well as a new addition in the form of a lone-wolf ex-lover, have to tackle the question of what, and who, family is. Is it the one you were born into, the one you choose, or can it sometimes be both?
The Better to Kiss You With